Why it’s important to encourage cultural competence in childcare

Cultural competence is defined as “respecting multiple ways of knowing, seeing and living, celebrating the benefits of diversity and having an ability to understand and honour differences”. Cultural competence helps children respect and accept others from all backgrounds.  It encourages them to understand that their own cultural diversity can be brought with them wherever they may be. Amara was pleased to find cultural competence took an integral part in her son Arif’s Botany childcare centre. Staff were welcoming and respectful to all families that attended from the diverse neighborhood.  

Cultural competence in a childcare setting 

Botany childcare centre staff spend time getting to know about all their families and appreciating any difficulties children may have in adapting to a new and different environment from the one they have at home. This may include different types of food, mealtimes, attitudes and clothing. Children respond well when the adults around them model cultural competence. They adapt and bring their own understanding to cultural differences when they have an appropriate model to follow. 

Relationships start with respect

Childcare educators are aware that learning starts with building relationships. Centre staff take time to become attuned to cultural differences so that they can engage successfully with all the children that become part of the childcare family. A strong sense of well-being and a strong personal and cultural identity is important in a resilient child. Helping children build and retain this identity is part of the National Early Learning Framework and an integral part of the Belonging, Being and Becoming philosophy and guidelines.  National Education Leader of the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), Rhonda Livingstone talks about cultural competence as the “ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures”. 

Amara saw that these traits were embedded in Arif’s Botany childcare centre. By celebrating diverse cultural festivals the children learnt positive attitudes towards different world practices. The introduction to multicultural meals and traditions also helped them learn to interact in different ways that would help them communicate across cultures.


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